Any Gifts Under the Tree?

The Dodgers have been asking Santa Claus for weeks upon weeks for a hitter who might one day hit 30 home runs in a year, preferably 2007. They also have been asking for another piece in the bullpen. So far, the floor under the Christmas tree looks suspiciously bare and if the gifts are to suddenly appear, it's going to have to be a last minute down the chimney event.

Now, truth be known, Christmas is mostly make believe. Biblical scholars are generally agreed that Jesus the Messiah was NOT born on Christmas day. For the rest of the holiday stuff, it has mostly been made up many times many ways but mostly by the Chamber of Commerce and folks who want to SELL you things rather than give them to you.

The point is that if a hitter or a reliever is on the way, they are going to have to be bought and assembled - like most parents have to do after the kids go to bed.

The baseball stores are mostly picked over, the shelves are empty. There simply ain't no hitters available out there at a price the Dodgers can or will pay for.

For all the world, it looks like the Dodgers will be entering 2007 with a lineup without a slugger, a lineup that will have to scratch together guile, memory, experience and spit.

The Dodgers have retooled. Almost 20 players came and went this past year. While everybody was ga-ga over the kids - everybody that is except those who make the lineups - the Dodgers have in fact got older. Which also means slower.

Old and slow means station to station baseball. Take a team that is on the one hand old and slow and on the other hand has no real punch, then you have an iffy offense.

The price the Dodgers have had to play to get old and slow is twofold. First, old and slow breaks down just like my 14 year old clunker. It is a Mercedes, but it is also very long in the tooth. It looks good. It is NOT as good as it looks. Second, old and slow does not a good fielding team make.

We just love the great actresses Helen Mirren and Vanessa Redgrave. Put them under the right lights and put them on the right stage and you feel and sense the touch of greatness.

The thing is the Dodgers are like the two actresses - no longer young. The season is 162 games. And then you begin the playoffs. Baseball is a marathon not a sprint.

Like the actresses, the Dodgers have marquee names, pretty faces. They are familiar. But the fear is that while they are looking good, a pack of young speedsters will be cavorting around getting balls in the gap, diving athletically rather than bellyflopping with age, outdefending the Dodgers, not caring a whit about showing up the old foggies.

The prudent Dodgers fan might want to think about buying shares in Centenella Hospital rather than in world series programs.

The Dodgers will look good, but the question is whether the Dodgers will BE good.

The thing is, Luis Gonzalez is a great signing. What is wrong is the signing came 10 years too late.

The Dodgers did great and got a Hall of Fame second baseman. But they got him after his ticket into the Hall had been punched. Jeff Kent's best was already chalked up when he walked through the Dodgers door.

Nomar Garciaparra will be remembered as one of the great players. Ted Williams thought Nomar would be the next and maybe the last .400 hitter. But then was then, not now. And this is the Dodgers problem, too much then not now.

Now the Dodgers HAVE some now. Their names are Broxton and Loney and Kemp and Billingsley and Kuo. The problem is the Dodgers NOW will be watching players of the past trying to repeat the glory they once had. Kuo will not start - there is no room. Broxton wont close - he's not deemed ready. Kemp probably wont even stick with the big club.

Loney, the best of the bunch, is the biggest enigma. Can he displace an icon? Sure he can. Will he? No, he will not. This is an embarrassment all around.

So, the Dodgers Christmas looks good but may not be good. The candy is dandy but unfortunately it is stale. The little soldiers have been given guns, but they are pop guns.

Christmas will come and go. The needles on the tree will soon begin to wither and die. The wrapping paper will be wadded up and discarded. And what looked so glittery on Christmas morning will turn into this: the Dodgers still have Brett Tomko on the big league pitching staff. He can't start and he can't relieve, but he has a contract. Tomko is the poster child for the Dodgers.

The team can't hit homers. It will not be a good fielding team. But they have contracts. Sic transit gloria mundi (loosely translated, you get what you deserve).

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